Driving while under the influence of alcohol or substances is extremely dangerous to both the driver and the public’s safety. To prevent this danger, North Carolina has imposed some of the toughest Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) penalties in the country. First time offenders may face both criminal and administrative penalties that could even result in jail time and license suspension.
What constitutes driving while intoxicated?
North Carolina’s DWI law prohibits driving or being in control of a vehicle while under the influence of an impairing substance. This can include cases where the vehicle is not in motion if the defendant is in the driver’s seat with the engine running.
An “impairing substance” is legally defined as a substance that has increased your blood alcohol content (BAC) level past the legal limit or a substance that is categorized as a schedule I drug by the federal government.
BAC legal limits
Breathalyzer tests are used to determine the BAC level of a driver. The following criteria outlines the blood alcohol content percentages that are considered legally impairing:
- Younger than 21: any amount of alcohol
- 21 years or older: 0.08%
- Commercial drivers (CDL): 0.04%
Penalties for refusing a sobriety test
Refusing a chemical (blood or breath) test, results in the suspension of the driver’s license for a minimum of 30 days. If the defendant chooses not to have a hearing during this time or the verdict of the hearing is guilty, the driver’s license will be suspended for one year.
Penalties for DWI first-time offenders
The North Carolina police department and the department of transportation may both issue penalties for DUI charges. A driver’s BAC, age, number of offenses, prescription medications, current driving record and license type are all factors that a judge may consider before determining which “level” of DUI penalties to sentence.
Types of penalties that may be imposed for first-time offenders include:
- Fines between $200 and $4,000, depending on the discretion of the court
- Court costs
- Attorney fees
- Higher car insurance rates
- Community service
- License suspension or revocation for one year (possible even if charged, but not convicted)
- Jail time can be dismissed completely or ordered for up to two years, depending on the discretion of the court
The court may also order the completion of an alcohol safety course or substance abuse education program.
DWI penalties levels
Any of the following penalty levels may be issued, depending on the verdict reached by the court:
- Level 5: $200 fine and possible jail time between 24 hours and 60 days (or the court may dismiss jail time)
- Level 4: $500 fine and possible jail time between 48 hours and 120 days (or the court may dismiss jail time)
- Level 3: $1,000 fine and possible jail time between 72 hours and six months (or the court may dismiss jail time)
- Level 2: $2,000 fine and possible jail time between one week and one year
- Level 1: $4,000 fine and possible jail time between 30 days and two years
If you or a loved one are facing DWI charges, contact a criminal defense lawyer immediately to ensure that you have a defense in place. Without the support of a knowledgeable attorney, first-time DWI offenders could face big penalties in North Carolina.